In the waning days of the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted new rules governing how companies must store dangerous chemicals. The rules were the product of careful, studied response to disasters such as a deadly 2013 Texas chemical plant explosion. Now the Trump EPA has weakened those safeguards.
Under the weakened rules, companies will not have to provide public access to information about the kinds of chemicals stored on their sites; undertake measures aimed at preventing accidents, such as analyzing safer technology and procedures; conduct a “root-cause analysis” after a major chemical release; or obtain a third-party audit when an accident has occurred.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) senior director Elena Craft called it “unconscionable that the Trump administration would gut key protections for emergency responders and people living near facilities that handle potentially dangerous chemicals. We need more-detailed emergency plans, increased transparency and safer technology. This action moves in the wrong direction when it’s clear that the cost of chemical disasters is far greater than keeping communities safe.”
The folly of the Trump EPA’s latest gutting of environmental safety standards didn’t take long to show up in tragic headlines. On the day before Thanksgiving, another Texas petrochemical plant explosion sent at least three workers to the hospital, damaged nearby businesses, and sent plumes of chemical-laced smoke into the November sky. An estimated 50,000 nearby residents were impacted by emergency shelter warnings.
“Another preventable tragedy at a Texas petrochemical facility has hospitalized at least three workers and damaged nearby businesses just a day before Thanksgiving,” said EDF’s Craft. “The fiery sky, blown-out windows, evacuations, and shelter-in-place orders are glaring reminders that we need state and federal officials to do more to protect our communities. Instead, Trump’s EPA put emergency responders and people living near these industrial facilities in harm’s way by gutting needed safeguards last week. We will be thankful when they take chemical safety more seriously.”
We are reminded that the best defense against such environmental policy insanity is to replace those who are perpetrating it by voting for better leaders.